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Full text of "The Financial condition and needs of the Protestant Public Schools of Montreal [microform]"

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THE FINANCIAL CONDITION AMD NEEDS 



I 



OI'' THE 



PROTESTANT PUBLIC SCHOOLS 



OF MONTREAL. 







PUBLISHED 

BY ORDER OF THE BOARD, 
MAY, 1908. 



MONTREAL, May, 1908. 



"^ 



In view of the public interest which has lately been 
manifested in the question of 'protection from fire in the 
public schools, the Protestant Board of School Commis- 
sioners of the City of Montreal desires to place before its 
constituents a statement of its position, its needs, and its 
policy in that department of its work which relates to its 
school buildings 

The territory of the Board includes the whole of the 
City of Montreal with the exception of St. Henri and 
Ste. Cuiiegonde Wards, and portions of St. Denis and 
St. Mary's Wards formerly known as Villeray and Rose- 
mount. Within these limits the Board is charged with 
the duty of providing, as far as its means will allow, 
elementary and secondary education for the children of 
all Protestant and Jewish residents. For purposes of ele- 
mentary education this area is divided into fifteen school 
districts, each provided with a school building. For pur- 
poses of secondary education three schools have been 
established, the High School of Montreal, the High School 
for Girls, and the Commercial and Technical High School. 
The first two of these occupy one building, and have 
attached to them classes of elementary grades. Of the 
seventeen school houses, sixteen are the property of the 
Board, and one, the Belmont Street School, is rented from 
the Provincial Government. It is impossible to deny in the 
face of recent experience, that in each of these buildings 
the occupants are exposed to certain dangers, greater or 



less arising out of the risk of fire. These dangers may 
he chissified as follo^vs : — 

1. The danger from flame. 

2. The danger of suffocation. 

3. The danger from crushing in panic. 

4. The danger from thi. collapse of the floors or roof. 
The means which have .so far been taken to guard 

against these risks include both preventive and protective 
measures. As preventing tlie beginning or tlie spreading 
of a fire, the following prccautior s have been taken : — 

In all schools, the supply of kindling wood h;' . been 
removed from the vicinity of the furnaces, and placed 
beyond the reach of the -nipils. The furnace-rooms have 
been made as nearl}' fireproof as possible in the circum- 
stances. Suitable metal receptacles have been jjrovide*.'. 
fo. waste paper. Chemical fire extingui;:hcrs have been 
placed in all basements, C(^)kery rooms, and manual train- 
ing rooms, and also in such other places as have l)een 
indicated by the City Building Inspector. The last four 
(jf the Board's buildings, the Commercial and Technical 
High, the Sarah Maxwell Memorial, the Earl Grey, and 
the new Ann Street Schools, have been made fireproof. 

The arrangements made for the preservation of the 
lives of the pupils and teachers in the event of fire consist 
of the installation of special fire alarm boxes in all the larger 
schools, the hanging of tlie doors of exit .so as to open 
outwards, the adoption of an organized system of fire-drill, 
frequently practiced, and in all schools of two or more 
stories, the provision of canvas chutes to serve as a means 



of .-scape in the cvcm of tlic occupants of a clays-nK.ni 
'"• an upper st..ry hein^ unahle to nad. the ^rnnuul by 
the .,rdinary exits. In ad.lition t.. these, three ,f the 
school hnildin.irs are provided with outside iron fire escapes, 
one other, in wliich 'I:,. „,.,,! appeared to he nr.,a-ni. is 
alx.ut to be sin.ihirly e.piipped. and one, the uv^v Ann 
Street vSchool, now in course of erection, will contain in- 
side tlrej.roof stairways, separate and distinct from the 
ordinary staircases, and each connected only with tiiree 
iiitercon.inunieatinjr class-rooms at the top, and with the 
street or the scluxd yard at the bottom. As snppleu>entin.. 
these arranjrements, there has been a widespread demaiul 
tipon the part of certain resider.f s for the immediate erection 
of broad outside iron galleries completely surroimditi^ the 
bnildin.trs, communicating with all the nxjnis of the first 
and second stories, ai:d connected with the ground by iron 
staircases. The advocates of this system, which is not in 
genera^ use in other cHies, seem to have overlooked some 
of the %cts of the case. A b,ll is now before the Onebec 
Legislature defining more exactly than does the present 
Ipw, the character of the fire escapes to be pro.ided, and 
until .his bill becomes operative, it is quite uncertain 
whether or not any system which might now be adopted 
would conform to the requirements of the future law. It 
is probable that some liberty of action will still be left to 
the School Board, and in their choice of the style of fire 
escape, the Commissioners should in the discharge of their 
duty, consult the best exp rt opinion obtainable, including 
that of the principals of their schools, who are familiar 



with scl ool conditions and liniitatinn.n, and who will Ikj 
required to tnakc frequent use of the new apparatus for 
purjjoses of practice. It may be remarked in passing' that 
as the danger from crushing,' in panic is obviously lessened 
as the numlKjr of separate exits to the ;Jtreet is increased, 
the plan adopted in the new Ann Street School seems to 
offer advantages in this respect at least. That building 
will contain on the first floor six class-nwrns each accom- 
modating about fifty pupils. These have been provided 
with intercommunicating doors so arranged that three 
rooms in the front and three in the back of the building 
have access both to the common corridor and to one or 
other of two special fireproof staircases, comumnicat! 'g 
with the school yard or the street. Not more than ouo 
hundred and fifty pupils will, therefore, be obliged to use 
any one exit in the event of fire. A; the present moment 
all the school buildings of the Board are equipped with 
fire escapes in accordance with the terms of the lav, and 
this fact is attested by the certificate of the City Building 
Inspector. The Commissioners do not adminijr'T their 
trust without regard to these moral obligations -vhich in- 
clude much more than compliance with the letter of the 
law, and if, at the present moment, active steps are being 
taken only in the most urgent cases, the reason is to be 
found in the uncertainty of future legal requirements, and 
in the limitations imposed by their present financial con- 
dition. Whatever may be the advantages or disadvantages 
of any system of fire escapes applied to the school build- 
ings generally, it is quite safe to say that its installation 



would be costly, and it is equally certain that the necessary 
funds arc neither in hand nor in sij^ht, so lonj^, at least, 
as the incou'.e of the Board is not increased from a new 
source, or so long as its present scale of expenditure re- 
mains undimini .hed. Tiiis fact will be evident from an 
examination of the following suni'uari/ed statement of 
revenue and expenditure upon income account for the year 
ending June 30th, 1907 : — 

Reven. e. 

City School Tax $298,267 07 

Government Grant (?,oi4 41 

School Fees 43,660 73 

Other Income 1.673 7^ 



Expenditure. 



5^349.615 92 



Interest and Sinking Fund $ 57,548 60 

Salaries 219,254 61 

Stationery 5,746 • 

Fuel 12,361 . 

Repairs 17,853 39 

Water, light, printing, rent and 

miscellaneous expenses 21,672 19 

Subsidy to McGill Model Schools 6,292 28 



Balance available towards capital 
requirements 



$340,729 09 
8,886 83 



l'ercentai{e 
of Inronie. 

16.46 

62.71 

1.65 

3-54 
5-IO 

6.20 
1.80 



97.46 
2.54 



$349,615 92 100.00 



The narrow margin of income thus shown was 
chargeable under the terms of the law, with the expen- 
diture necessary for the purchase of furniture, and as this 
item amounted last year to $13,529.53 there was an actual 
d ficit of $4,642.70 as the result of the year's operations. 
The prospects for the current year are scarcely more pro- 
mising, and it appears quite clear that in 1908-09, when 
the four new school buildings now in course of erectioi., 
will be occupied, a considerable additional annual expen- 
diture will be necessary for their maintenance. Nor does 
the necessity for school accommodation end even here. 
Of the four school buildings now in progress, two merely 
replace other buildings destroyed by fire, one is an addition 
to an existing school, and the fourth will serve as the 
successor of a smaller and much dilapidated structure. 
The increased number of school places thus obtained will 
satisfy only the present needs of the immediate localities, 
while already congestion exists in at least two others. 
The Duflferin School is crowded to its utmost capacity, 
and no further extension is possible, while in Aberdeen 
School the attendance is actually above the class-room 
accommodation. In these and other schools, seats can be 
found for the junior pupils now in attendance only by 
doubling the use of some of the rooms, one half-day class 
occupying it during the morning, while another attends 
in the afternoon, an arrangement which is certainly un- 
desirable in the educational interests of the latter class. 
The necessity of providing more school accommodation 
has always been before the Commissioners as a problem 



^• 



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of annual recurrence since the organization of the Board. 
In the early days of its history school places could only be 
provided for those districts in which the need appeared most 
urgent, and considerable sections of the city were entirely 
without Protestant public school houses as lately as 1885. 
Of the sixteen buildings now belonging to the Board 
thirteen have been erected, and two entirely rebuilt since 
that time. A very considerable part of this work has 
been done within the last four years, and since the 
1st of July, 1904, a sum of upwards of $640,000 has been 
expended by the Board in the erection of the Commercial 
and Technical High, the Sarah Maxwell Memorial, the 
Earl Grey, and the new Ann Street Schools, and in the 
enlargement of the Aberdeen, Dufferin, Lansdowne, Mount 
Royal, and Riverside Schools. 

As illustrating the need for the increased school 
accommodation thus provided, it may be stated that the 
average attendance rose from 8,or i in 190304 to 10,073 in 
1906-07, an increase of 2,062 pupils, or more than twenty- 
five per cent in three years. It appears probable that the 
growth of the population of Montreal will continue at an 
accelerating rate. Even if the numerical increase is 
merely maintained in the future, it will be sufficiently 
great to require the annual addition to the system of a new 
school house capable of accommodating 700 pupils, or of 
equivalent extensions of the existing buildings. An ad- 
ditional difficulty exists in the fact that the Belmont Street 
School, which has an attendance of nearly 600 pupils, is 
housed in a building leased from the Provincial Govern- 



i 



8 



ment up to August 1910 only. If at the end of that time 
the owners should decide to sell the property, it is difl&cult 
to see where the requisite accommodation could be found 
elsewhere. 

So far, the funds necessary for building purposes, 
with the exception of some $i4,cxx) received as insurance, 
have been provided by the issue of bonds, the interest and 
sinking fund upon which now form a heavy first charge 
upon the income of the Board. The amount retained by 
the City Treasurer from the City School Tax upon this 
account during 1906-07 was $57,548.60, or more than six- 
teen per cent of the Board's entire income. As each school 
building erected or enlarged involves either an entirely 
new or an increased charge for ordinary maintenance in 
addition to the interest and sinking fund upon its cost, it 
is scarcely surprising that the annual increase in the 
income yielded by the City School Tax has failed to keep 
pace with the double demands made upon it both upon 
income and capital accounts. This is especially evident 
when the large foreign immigration into the city is taken 
into consideration. At the present moment, and in view 
of the deficit in income of 1906-07, the Board is certainly 
not in a position to undertake further heavy disburse- 
ments either for new school houses, though two at least are 
urgently needed, or for the addition of any costly system 
of fire escapes to its existing buildings. If new burdens 
are to be assumed, one or other of two courses must be 
taken, for no third is possible. Either the income of the 
Board must be increased, or its expenditure must be 



>f 



diminished. A glance at the statement of disbursements 
will show that one item only, that of salaries, is sufficiently 
large to suggest even the possibility of serious reduction, 
and this possibility will scarcely present itself a second 
time to the minds of those who are acquainted with the 
facts I : the case. So long as the scale of salaries of any 
class of teachers is below the level of the living wage, as 
is now the case in Montreal, and so long as some recog- 
nition is given to differences in amount and in difficulty 
of work, it will be quite impossible to seek relief in this 
direction. The alternative is an increase of revenue. The 
income of the Board arises from three sources, the City 
School Tax, the grant made by the Provincial Govern- 
ment, and the fees of the three High Schools. School 
fees in the elementary schools, so far as Protestant and 
Jewish residents are concerned, were abolished in 1904 by 
Act of Parliament. It would be possible to re-impose 
them if the consent of the Legislature could be obtained to 
what would certainly be regarded as a retrograde measure, 
but the amount which could annually be collected from 
this source would be quite insufficient to meet the needs 
of the case. The probability of any increase in the 
Government grant to the City Schools is too remote to 
demand notice, and the only possible source of additional 
income is, therefore, an increase in the rate of the City 
School Tax. As has been already stated, the constantly 
increasing strain placed upon the Board's income by the 
annual requirements for interest and sinking fund upon 
its bonds has reached the breaking point, and it is now 



10 



suggested that permanent relief should be given by the 
imposition of a small special tax for building purposes 
only, as is done in Winnipeg, Ottawa, and Toronto. At 
present, an addition of one mill to the Protestant and 
neutral panels of the school tax would relieve the Board 
of the necessity of providing for its capital requirements 
out of its ordinary income. 

In the present circumstances the duty of the School 
Commissioners seems plain. It is their intention to pre- 
sent at the next session of the Provincial Legislature a 
bill for the imposition of an additional school tax to 
provide for the interest and sinking fund upon the bonds 
representing their capital expenditure. If, in the mean- 
time, it should become necessary to expend any consider- 
able sum in the erection of fire escapes under the terras of 
the bill now before Parlii^ment, it is quite certain, in the 
face of the deficit of last year, that the funds cannot be 
provided out of the ordinary income. A temporary loan 
to be repaid from the proceeds of a new issue of bonds or 
the placing of a mortgage upon the school buildings will 
be the only resource. The addition thus made to the 
capital liability will still further increase the annual 
charge for interest and sinking fund, already unduly 
high. 

It is quite probable that any proposal to augment the 
rate of school taxation will meet with opposition before 
the Legislature. The issue is, however, perfectly plain. 
As the entire annual income of the Board is now required 
for the maintenance of the existing schools, and as no 



n 

margin is available for future building requiiements, it 
follows as a matter of course that the public must either 
supply further funds for this purpose or rest content with 
such accommodation as is afforded by the present build- 
ings. The determination not to submit to increased 
taxation carries with it of necessity the deliberate accept- 
ance of the latter alternative, involving the exclusion for 
lack of room of the large number of pupils representing 
the growth of the population. Should this result follow, 
the responsibility will rest, not upon the School Board, 
but upon those who refuse it the funds necessary for the 
extension of its work. 



William I. Shaw, LL D., D. C. L., 

Chairman. 

I. H. Stearns. 
James Barclay, D. D., LL.D. 
H. B. Yates, M. D. 
Richard Turner. 
Herbert Svmonds, D. D.